Landmark Daska judgment
THE short order on Daska by-election judgment is a landmark. The judgment has pulled out propaganda from its roots and exposed attacks on democracy.
The court has provided a golden opportunity, which all parties should use to hold by-election in Daska in such a way that it sets an example for modern democracies.
If upheld properly, it will help Election Commission hold transparent, free and fair elections. It will strengthen our Constitution, rule of law and democracy.
Against the expectations of pitching constitutional institutions against each other, the Apex Court has nipped the evil in the bud.
It has not only recognized the powers of ECP but also upheld its decision. In the order, the court has accepted order by ECP for re-election in the whole of Daska constituency instead of controversial polling stations.
PTI challenged the decision in the Supreme Court. It is now a landmark judgment. A dice that was rolled to resurrect doctrine of necessity for the future is removed.
Justice Bandial said that on account of the facts that stand established and did not need any further probe, we have decided that we cannot accept this appeal.
We have looked at the constitution and the law and considered our jurisdiction as the appellate court and wish to pass a short order the detailed reasoning of which will come later.
As per the earlier decision, the Daska by-poll will be held on 10 April 2021. Its timing and result is of great significance for all the stakeholders.
Without help of organizations, it would not have been possible to get a timely decision. Report of geo-fencing has played an important part in getting a timely judgment.
By making report public, media forced government to flee. We know that such cases rot in the courts for want of evidence.
The report should be made public and an independent inquiry should be ordered against PTI for the disappearance of returning officers, vote bags, police and underutilization of Rangers for accountability even if they are highest public office holders.
In the short order, Justice Bandial dropped hints that the case was not simple and said the court wanted to lay down guidelines regarding future conduct of the elections in the country as well as the exercise of its jurisdiction by the ECP.
The detailed judgment will walk a fine line between strengthening ECP while keeping a system of check and balance for the SC.
Since SC and ECP both are constitutional setups and share similar respect so PTI should not have challenged ECP’s order in the top court in the first place.
It would be interesting to see how balance is created in detailed judgment in which the ECP is made stronger so that it can act decisively but justly in situations where irregularities are committed.
Just as on the Feb 19, polling day when election process remained suspended in 13 polling stations and incidents of aerial firing occurred at different places.
It prompted the Commission to use its authority to annul the entire election process than the selected polling stations, which resulted in standoff.
Accordingly, ECP will have to balance use of its power so that justice must not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done (Lord Hewart).
SC will have to keep a check in such a way that judgment exudes support just like fragrance of fresh grass not stench of takeover of one constitutional setup by another.
Nothing is to be done which creates even a suspicion that there has been an improper interference with the course of justice.
Justice Bandial observed that ECP failed to take appropriate measures to conduct the election in a peaceful manner.
There are many laws but if we adopt alternate voting ballot paper in electoral reforms it will end ballot paper theft because candidates are ranked in order of preference on it and without the ballot paper there will be no election result. By changing the mechanism, the voting will become more secure.
The current FPTP election system is outdated because it is for two-party system whereas with PTI there are three major parties now.
Based on court observations, the Chief Secretary, the IG Punjab, DC, DPO, and others should be fired because they failed to respond to the ECs request for controlling the law and order situation on the election day, which was planned because police also did not intervene to block acts of intimidation, harassment and violence.
They all should be given exemplary punishment to end selfish culture at the cost of public expense.
FIR should also be registered against PTI and PMLN candidates. Due to clash of party workers, two innocent people died.
They brandished weapons on the election day to deter voters from voting so that they could win the election in a by-poll, which traditionally has lower voter turnout than general election.
The families of victims should get justice and punishment should be given to the candidates, their parties and party leaders to end such violent practices in future.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.